Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Excursion To YS Falls in Jamaica

While in Negril, it was hard to leave the seven-mile beach and the cliffs, but we had read that Jamaica features some amazing waterfalls so we decided on an excursion to the lush YS Falls

Seven-Mile Beach, Negril
The Cliffs on Negril's west end
We hired a driver to bring us to YS Falls, located on the south coast approximately 50 miles east of Negril.  The ride took about 90 minutes and we very much enjoyed the scenery, passing by small towns, the gate to Peter Tosh's burial site, catching glimpses of the beautiful ocean in the distance, vendors on the side of the road selling corn on the cob and shrimp, among other foods. 

YS Fall is located on YS Estate, a working cattle and horse farm in the Parish of St. Elizabeth.  Driving into the estate and toward the parking lot, we saw small mountains, green fields and grazing horses. 

At the office, we paid our entry fee ($15 per adult, $7.50 for children) and took a fun, 10-minute jitney tractor ride across the pastures and up to the falls. 

We passed by beautiful gardens, trees, wildlife and natural pools. 

We read the rules:

The estate featured seven beautiful waterfalls in a jungle-like environment, with abundant plant life and foliage. The estate also offered a zip line ride over the canopy which 
looked awesome but we did not do time!

There are seven river pools where you can wade around and swim, 
which were very refreshing, as it was HOT!  There was even a rope swing in one of the pools.  
Here's my husband having fun on the swing!

Additional pictures of the falls and a friendly snail:

We could have spent a full day at the falls relaxing, walking in the gardens and swimming in the pools.  It was an amazing experience and felt like a small piece of paradise.  Jamaica has so much to offer!

After a morning/early afternoon at YS Falls, and a quick stop for some jerk chicken on the way back to the hotel, we were back at the beach in plenty of time to catch another fabulous Negril sunset. 

What's your favorite spot in Jamaica?  Feel feel to leave a comment below and thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Trip to Poggio Antico in Montalcino

While staying at the lovely Palazzo Ravizza in Siena, the front desk person recommended a visit to Poggio Antico to taste some of Montalcino's famous Brunello wine.  We drove south on SR2 through small villages, enjoying the rolling hills and soft scenery of Tuscany for about an hour.  As we approached Montalcino, the scenery became much more amazing, almost jaw dropping, whichever direction we looked.  After spotting the sign for Poggio Antico, we drove down a long, unpaved cypress-lined driveway and arrived at the 500-acre estate which was spectacular!

We joined a very small tour group (six people) in the winery's office and set off to learn how how wine is produced at Poggio Antico.  The grapes at the winery are of the Sangiovese variety, which are called Brunello in Montalcino.

First stop: choosing the grapes, which go through a three-step pruning process during the growing year. During the third step, staff actually inspect every bunch of grapes and decide which ones will receive the last days of sunshine and nutrition.  We admired the grapes along with a few thirsty bees, and we each tasted one or two, which were absolutely delicious!

Next, we went indoors to learn about how the grapes become wine.  Our guide explained the winery's process for producing its wines which include the following wines:

Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G.
Altero - Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G.
Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G. Riserva
Madre, I.G.T Toscana
Lemartine, I.G.T Toscana
Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C.

We were surprised by the very modern technology in the cellar with its 23 cone-shaped stainless steel tankes with removable lids.  We followed our tour guide up a ladder and she explained the fermentation process in depth. 

After leaving the cellar, we then learned about how the wines are stored, corked, bottled and then stored again. 

At the end of the tour, it was time for the tasting! We headed to the La Bottega di Poggio Antico, a small shop on the propery which serves as a sun-filled tasting room.  Each taste was better than the last, and we bought a special bottle which we recently enjoyed on our first wedding anniversay.

There's a restaurant on the property, with some very amazing views, but we wanted to explore Montalcino and headed into town for some lunch.  After reading reviews about the Ristorante di Poggio Antico after, I wished we had stayed for lunch, what an amazing place. Here's the view.

While in Montalcino, I highly recommend a visit to Poggio Antico.  To learn more, click here. To read more about my travels in Tuscany which include Orvieto, Montalcino and Siena, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Photo Blog: Amsterdam's Canals

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has been called the "Venice of the North" for its more than 60 miles of canals, approximately 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. 

Below are some photos I took of various canals during my week-long stay in this wonderful city. I look forward to staying in a house/hotel boat on a canal when I return to Amsterdam someday!  

Enjoy, and to learn more about Amsterdam, click here.